Hey Mr DJ – Abilities & Fuse One
December 22, 2006, 3:26 pm
Filed under: A DJ Saved My Life, Album Reviews

OK people, the festive season is officially upon us and I’m afraid that this will be my last post until the 31st. My parents still live in London so I’m making the journey home and I’m also staying with my girlfirend for a bit in Reading. Have been really enjoying the blog since I started up at the beginning of the month so I’m slightly concerned about withdrawal symptoms (although should be beneficial to leave the computer alone for a short period).

Decided to throw up a couple of mixes today to see you through the Christmas period. DJ Abilities is based in Minnesota and holds an affiliation with the Atmosphere crew, although tends now to spend most of his time working with Eyedea (hence Eyedea & Abilities). I haven’t really checked any of his production work, but if it’s anywhere near as good as his technique behind the ones and twos then it must be worth checking out. Winner of the DMC regionals in ’99 and ’01, Abilities is particularly strong at older scratching styles and his transforms are some of the best I have ever heard. ‘For Persons With DJ Abilities’ is an excellent blend of boom bap hip hop and some newer stuff with some nice touches throughout that make this exactly what a good mix should be: complex enough to demonstrate real talent but without overcomplicating the issue and making it sound fussy. Check the use of Black Sheep’s ‘Without a Doubt’ beat twinned with De La’s ‘Itzoweezee’ lyrics over the top: pure class.

I know very little about DJ Fuse One other than that he is based in the Bay Area. His ‘Metamorphosis’ mix is a highly entertaining 60 minute journey through old and new skool hip hop with lots of original break samples used to boot. There is a DJ Shadow section on the album which is jaw-droppingly put together, utilising original source samples and various Shadow releases in an original and exciting way. Fuse One has a purist’s approach to the artform claiming in the liner notes that all of the track selections were from original pressings and therefore ‘no bootlegs, compilations, re-issues, CDs or anything else you people use to substitute the real’ were used. I’m not sure if I agree with this aggressive stance towards beat collecting (if you have the original pressing does it mean that you love the music more?) but you have to admire the commitment it must have taken to have put this album together.

Hope you all enjoy the festive period. There is nothing like getting together with the family, consuming large quantities of food and drink and treating yourself to a Christmas day nap in front of the telly: pure, heart-warming indulgence. Tune back in on the 31st for more of the good stuff. Later.

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Scratch Perverts + Rawkus = Bangin’
December 14, 2006, 3:14 pm
Filed under: A DJ Saved My Life

Around ’98/’99 I was getting into turntablism in a big way and at that time the Scratch Perverts were the kings of the UK scene. They were technically stronger than anyone else as well as keeping it funky, and eventually went on to innovate the artform with feedback techniques that had never been seen before.

Simultaneous to this, Rawkus stepped into the limelight with a plethora of releases that brought quality underground hip hop back to the masses. I remember snapping up almost anything that had the Rawkus name stamped on the cover: it was an almost definite indicator of a slammin’ release. Never before had I had such confidence in a contemporary label and I can only imagine what it was like for rap music fans during the golden age when Def Jam and Tommy Boy were at the height of their powers. Of course, things turned sour for the label around 2000, but it seems like they might be making a resurgence; let’s hope so.

Given away with HHC, ‘The Cleaner’ features a selection of the Rawkus classics from this era and lets the Perverts work their magic on them. Featuring cuts from Ripshop, Mr Complex and Common as well as others, this is a seemless mix that demonstrates the skill of the Perverts whilst still allowing the selections to shine. Perhaps the most technically striking moment in ‘The Cleaner’ is the outro to Shabam Sahdeeq’s ‘Every Rhyme I Write’: pure turntablism genius. I’m not sure what the exact Perverts line-up was at this stage as they have been through several incarnations, but I suspect that this was after the departure of Mr Thing and First Rate but before the re-induction of Scotland’s Plus One.

I’m also posting a couple of mixes taken from a John Peel radio session coutesy of Sconeboy. First up is Prime Cuts followed by Mr Thing (my favourite UK DJ of all time). I would estimate that these were recorded c. ’98 as the Prime Cuts section features his ‘Jack Of Spades’ juggle which he was busting out at both the DMCs and ITFs around that time. Both mixes are of an exceptional standard featuring classic hip hop joints as well as the odd well known break.

Hate to sound jaded already, but if you download either of these mixes then please drop a comment. I know that people are downloading on a daily basis and yet only a small selection of people are talking! It’s pathetic I know, but it does make a difference to my day…

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Live From Japan – DJ Krush
December 12, 2006, 3:13 pm
Filed under: A DJ Saved My Life, Album Reviews, Producers

Back in ’95 the name Mo Wax was synonymous with quality. Early releases promised much and made the label a collector’s dream: limited presses, fantastic artwork and most importantly, bangin’ music. James Lavelle’s outfit could possibly be cited as the originators of the ‘trip hop’ tag (a term that I despise) as the releases around this time were basically downbeat or more abstract hip hop instrumentals. DJ Krush fitted perfectly into this niche, producing brooding sonic landscapes routed in hip hop but with a futuristic and forward-thinking edge. For my money, ‘Meiso’ is his seminal work.

The album features both instrumental joints as well as some impressive mic collaborations. Black Thought and Malik B’s verses on the title track are exceptional and CL Smooth comes correct on the album opener ‘Only The Strong Survive’. I’m not as keen on the Big Shug and Guru track; the beat lacks the moody atmosphere that complements the MCs so well on the aforementioned cuts, and the overall vibe leaves me feeling a little cold. Still, the names speak for themselves: these are well written and expertly delivered rhymes that work well over Krush’s accomplished production skills.

Worthy of a special mention is ‘Duality’. This tune passed me by for a long time as the opening two minutes is some of Krush’s less inspiring work. It simply doesn’t carry the weight of some of the other tracks and lacks punch. However, everything changes after three minutes. Snares break out in an eruption of percussive noise before dropping into the DJ Shadow produced section of the song which is nothing short of sensational. Scratched horns float over rippling drums and the momentum is relentless. This is Shadow at his best: I could listen to this all day and my head would still be nodding as it hit the pillow.

Later Krush works become increasingly minimal and stray away from the drum heavy tracks that constitute the finest beats on this album. In doing so, he loses the sense of rawness that is so compelling on this release. Still, this is a powerful and at times gripping album that demonstrates that it definitely ain’t where you’re from, it’s where you’re at.

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Who Got Da Props? DJ Sconeboy
December 7, 2006, 2:51 pm
Filed under: A DJ Saved My Life

Nice to see a few comments coming. It really makes a difference when I see that people have taken the time to post their opinions and it drives me to keep writing, so good lookin’ out to those who have done so.

In my haste to write my piece about Buckwild yesterday I forgot to send shouts to my mate Rory who was the source of those beats (see comments posted). In reparation I’m posting a couple of his mixes today that are perfect examples of a local DJ who knows his way around the ones and twos and who also has a deep and varied record collection. It sounds horrendously arrogant but there are very few people who I interact with on a face-to-face basis that share my passion and interest in hip hop: Sconeboy is an exception.

These mixes are right up my alley, featuring classic boom bap cuts alongside a few UK joints that are blended together with taste and subtlety. So often when I listen to a DJ mix I find myself irritated by over the top turntablism that can often come across as self-indulgent and detracts from the selections made. Sconeboy steers clear of this temptation and lets the beats speak for themselves. ‘Mix One’ features cuts by Blackstar, De La and Craig Mack amongst others and ‘Mix Two’ begins sweetly with the Ahmad Jamal break featured on ‘The World Is Yours’ followed by the tune itself. Gotta feel that.

I’ll be posting a few more obscure albums over the next few days so keep me bookmarked and check in over the weekend.

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Vive La Revolution – DJ Cut Killer
December 5, 2006, 2:47 pm
Filed under: A DJ Saved My Life, Album Reviews

Really pleased with the comments so far – keep them coming people! Going to stick with Sendspace for the moment but let me know if you are experiencing problems downloading.

Wanted to switch it up with this next post so have turned my attention to the other side of the big blue expanse that separates the US from Europe. DJ Cut Killer is a stalwart of the French hip hop scene and was first brought to my attention in a film called ‘La Haine’ that was originally released in 1995. The film follows three french youths of varied racial/cultural descent and documents their lives in the wake of riots in the outskirts of Paris. It is wonderfully shot and heavily ingrained in hop hop culture featuring breakdancing scenes and a mysterious DJ scratching the shit out of KRS’ ‘Sound of da Police’ vocal over a beat that samples Edith Piaf’s ‘Je Ne Regrette Rien’. That DJ is Cut Killer. Needless to say, it left a distinct impression upon me and I consider the film to be a must-see.

Cut Killer began as many scratch DJs do: battling hard on the DMC circuit. From here he progressed to some of his own production work and is probably the most prolific of all French turntablists in terms of mixtape output. These are of a variable quality (not as a result of his skills which are unquestionably deep) due to some strange track selections which often feature the more commercial side of American R ‘n’ B. If that’s your thang then cop his ‘Cut Killer Soul Party’ series as they are dedicated to exactly that style of content but they have never really drawn my interest. The two albums featured today however are prime examples of a highly skilled DJ blending, juggling and scratching classic beats with the added intrigue of French joints that would otherwise have escaped my attention.

The beauty of these mixes is that they have a live feel. They seem raw and spontaneous: no post-production fiddling here. There is a cohesive mix of the styles from either side of the Atlantic although some of the freestyle sections lose impact after the first couple of minutes. Generally speaking, Cut Killer knows when to stop and let the music speak for itself. Particularly impressive is the Das EFX section of ‘Menage a 3’ that features a variety of boom bap classics linked by lyrical references that hint towards the next beat.

France has always struck me as a country that easily embraced hip hop culture without the crisis of identity that I believe has affected other nations outside of the US. I intend to post other French hip hop in the future: keep me bookmarked ‘mes amis’.

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